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Mattis urges congressional support for additional $30 billion for defense

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By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity March 23, 2017

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis discusses the Defense Department's fiscal year 2017 budget request during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 22, 2017.

WASHINGTON — The $30 billion in requested additional defense funding for fiscal year 2017 would be used to strengthen the military and protect the nation against emerging global security challenges, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Mattis warned that hesitation in investing in defense would deepen the “strategic mismatch between our future security and the military means to protect our people and freedoms.”

The secretary appeared at the defense budget and readiness hearing with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The security situation facing our country has become more challenging,” Mattis said. “The looming threats have outstripped the level of resources we have been allocating to defense.”


President Donald J. Trump’s request for the additional $30 billion represents the first step in a three-part, multi-year effort to restore readiness, Mattis explained.

This year’s budget appropriation, including the requested additional $30 billion, is needed to “get our aircraft back in the air, our ships back to sea, and our troops back in the field with refurbished or new equipment and proper training,” the defense secretary said.

“We base this request on a realistic appreciation of the capacity we need to fight and win on the battlefield,” he said, noting the next phases of the effort focus on fiscal year 2018 and several years beyond.

The department is aware of the sacrifices of the American taxpayers in making the additional funding for fiscal year 2017 possible, Mattis said. The department takes the responsibility of being wise stewards seriously.”

The $30 billion in additional funds includes a base budget request of $24.9 billion and an overseas contingency operations budget request of $5.1 billion.

The additional $30 billion funding request brings to $619.2 billion the amount requested by the Defense Department for fiscal year 2017, according to the DOD comptroller’s office.


Mattis highlighted the importance of military support of diplomatic efforts, saying diplomatic solutions are the preferred options.

“Our military must ensure that the president and our diplomats always negotiate from a position of strength,” he said. “Global threats require a global response, applying the full weight of our own and our allies’ power, allies which are also increasing their defense outlays.”

Military deterrence, the defense secretary said, is only credible if military strength is sufficiently formidable that allies can confidently align with the United States in tempering adversaries’ designs.


The global security challenges threatening national security interests are numerous, Mattis told the senators.

“We see Russia and China seeking veto power over the economic, diplomatic and security decisions of nations on their periphery,” he said. “Terrorist groups murder the innocent and threaten peace in many regions and target us.”

In addition, the secretary noted North Korea’s “reckless rhetoric and provocative actions” with its nuclear activities.

“This situation calls for our department to maintain a safe and secure nuclear deterrent and a decisive conventional force that can also fight irregular enemies since our military must be able to counter all threats facing us,” Mattis said.


The defense secretary acknowledged “hard choices” will have to be made in funding the department.

“With the help of the Congress, I believe we can build a force that is more lethal, without placing an undue burden on the American economy,” he said.

But, in order to do so, DOD needs a “sustained commitment from Congress in the form of additional funding and regular on-time budgets,” Mattis said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)

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Dunford: Now is the time to address military readiness shortfalls

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By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media ActivityMarch 23, 2017

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak with Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed at the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2017.

WASHINGTON — Military readiness must be bolstered, Defense Department leaders told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the senators that sequestration gutted military readiness and asked the committee to approve a $30 billion amendment to the fiscal year 2017 defense budget request to help the department recover.


Dunford was quick to point out that service members are sacrificing and that because of those sacrifices, “the joint forces can defend the homeland and our way of life, we can meet our alliance commitments and we maintain an overall competitive advantage over any potential adversary.”

The general does not want any potential adversary to think the United States cannot defend itself. Still, if the current budget climate is allowed to continue, the U.S. competitive advantage will continue to erode, he said.

Military actions around the globe create their own form of erosion.

“Fifteen years of war have also taken a toll on our people and our equipment,” Dunford said. “Many of our men and women continue to deploy as much as they are home. Similarly, our platforms, weapons and equipment are showing signs of wear. In many cases, we have far exceeded the planned service life for our vehicles, our aircraft and our ships.”


Budget battles also impose readiness blockages.

“Eight years of continuing resolutions and the absence of predictable funding has forced the department to prioritize near-term readiness at the expense of modernization and advanced capability development,” the general said. “We now face what has been described as a bow wave of modernization requirements for both our nuclear and our conventional forces.”

Potential foes see this, he said, and invest money into capabilities in space, cyber, electronic warfare and missile defense, closing the gap between themselves and the United States.

“It’s important that we reverse that trend,” Dunford added.

The fiscal 2017 defense budget request is a much-needed first step that will address the most urgent near-term readiness concerns, the chairman said. It will fund current operations, address personnel shortfalls, resource training and improve maintenance across the joint force.

“The additional request for resources also allows us to procure limited quantities of needed equipment to fill holes in our deploying units,” he said.

The budget amendment also contains $5.8 billion for overseas contingency operations that will allow the military to accelerate the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Dunford said.

“From my perspective, not having the OCO money will restrict our ability actually to accelerate the campaign and seize opportunities,” the general said. “We’ll lose some flexibility.”

The extra money is needed to buy spare parts, ammunition and for more soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

“We really do have many of our people that are home about an equal amount of time to the time they deployed,” the chairman told the subcommittee. “I visited one U.S. Navy ship last September. They were underway in a previous 12 months 70 percent of the time. They were at sea because of an important ballistic missile defense capability.”


The budget asks for some extra equipment. “We see that particularly in the case of the aviation enterprise, where units have fewer aircraft than they rate,” he said, which creates two problems.

The first is the unit doesn’t have the system needed to go to war. “The other is they don’t have sufficient aircraft to train,” Dunford said. “And so, our pilots also have degraded readiness as a result of not having sufficient aircraft.”

The chairman used a Navy squadron in Oceana Naval Air Base, Virginia, as an example. The squadron rates 10 aircraft but actually has just five mission-ready aircraft.

“You can’t get pilots to the right level of training proficiency on those five aircraft, which has two effects: one, is a readiness effect,” he said. “The other is, over time, a morale issue. We see the same thing with helicopters in the Army.”

The chairman’s experiences over the past decade give him a much broader definition of readiness.

“To me, it’s about what actions are necessary to make units whole, to allow them to be combat-effective and deployable,” he said. “Today, it’s a combination not only of maintaining equipment that we have, not only addressing the spare parts shortfall, but actually … now replacing shadows [on] the ramp where equipment doesn’t physically exist in the unit at a material condition that would allow us to deploy it.”

Now is the time to address this situation, he said. Any delay just pushes the readiness problem down the road. The military will ensure that units deploying in harm’s way have the training, personnel, spare parts and equipment they need. But the units at home station will be stripped, and the cost to bring readiness to acceptable levels will be much greater further down the budgetary road.

“So admittedly, some of these initiatives won’t realize a readiness benefit until 2019 or ’20, but if we don’t take the action in ’17, that will simply become 2021 or ’22,” he said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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Veteran credits VA festival for rekindling his spirit, allowing him to forgive, move forward

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I know it’s been a while since Jackson and the Creative Arts Festival show, but I wanted to drop you a line and share with you some of my thoughts about the whole experience.

First off, it was far more than just a music thing.The easiest way to describe how I feel is to say that being down there with so many other wonderful people, and with Veterans of differing ages and experiences breathed a new sense of life into my soul.

I came back feeling so much better than when I had timidly boarded the plane to leave home not knowing what to expect.  There were moments down there that were akin to a religious experience… I came back with a new faith in the beauty and value of being alive.  I know this sounds corny, but that week changed my life.

I met a Vietnam Vet there, he was an artist who had won the gold medal for leather working.  There was a moment later in the week while sitting by the hotel pool on the parking garage roof, where I was kind of thinking out loud and to myself how I wanted music and guitar to be a bigger part of my life, and he and I got to talking about a deal that ended up with him driving to Omaha to trade me one of the most beautiful instruments I have ever seen for a rifle that I bought when I was having a hard time with my PTSD.

He made it possible to rid myself of that weapon of destruction and fear for something that has added truth and beauty to myself and those near me, and through that guitar I gained a new perspective on what truly makes me feel the opposite of fear and to loosen the grip I had on the nasty two years I spent in Iraq, filling that black hole of emotions with an instrument of healing and new sense of self.

That is just one example of how the entire NVCAF gifted me with the empowerment to forgive and love myself… and from that my faith in the compassion of others was rekindled, and continues to glow in my day to day life.

I met so many people who encouraged me with my little solo part in “Stand in the Light.” There were moments there where I couldn’t hold back tears, overwhelmed with the reality that there is so much beauty in our world.

That week, that festival… so many moments, interpersonal emotional connections… I think if our country knew, especially in the present time of division we see and feel in our nation, it would inspire so many to see each other with more compassion and empathy.  The warmth of my experience during that week continues to drive me to reach out to others, to support and help who I can, and to accept help and love from those whom I share space with in my silly little life.

These thoughts are long overdue, but better late than never.

Thanks for everything, your hard work and dedication to making the NVCAF so meaningful, and for taking the time to read this.

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VA chaplain shares where healing began for a fellow Vietnam Veteran’s family

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I am a VA Chaplain, and serve as the Chief of Chaplain Service at VA Maine Healthcare System. I am also a Vietnam Combat Veteran, having served as a Combat Medic with B Company, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor of the 4th Infantry Division from 1968 -1969 in the Republic of South Vietnam.

While I was heavily involved in combat throughout my year in Vietnam, some 48-plus years ago, at times it seems like it was only last week. In my ministry, I see healing occur sometimes immediately and sometimes over time. This is a story about healing that occurred over the course of 48 years in my life.

I was working in my office on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, having just spent a few days reflecting on my service in Vietnam at week in 1969. It was a week where my unit lost several members to enemy fire at a tank battle at the Ben Het Special Forces Camp. I was deep in thought when my telephone rang and a gentleman, said to me “You are my hero!”

He said that his name was Jesse McGee, “I tracked you down through Google. I was 10 years old when my brother Freddy died in Vietnam and you were the medic that was there with him.”

I remembered Freddy. He was the Army SP5 Tank Commander (TC) of a B13 tank who had died in a tragic accident on Jan. 22, 1969. In actuality, Sergeant McGee was the hero.

image of M48A3 Tank 1st Bn 69th Armor 4th Infantry Division VietnamM48A3 Tank 1st Bn 69th Armor 4th Infantry Division Vietnam

Jesse McGee and his wife Cathie

He was scheduled to fly home that day from Vietnam as his tour of duty was ending. Freddy’s replacement, a new sergeant had just arrived and Freddy decided to stay one more night so that he could train him. This would increase his replacement’s chances of survival and that of the tank’s crew. Freddy decided on his own, and against everyone else’s advice, to stay the night and go in to the division base camp with the next day’s ammunition supply chopper. Our tank company was in a particularly hostile area, so the usual way people that left at end of their tour was to fly in to the division base camp with the evening supply chopper the night before.

The next morning, the five tanks in our 1st Platoon lined up in a herringbone pattern. That is when the tanks line up two-by-two with the fifth tank bringing up “drag” or the last position behind the other four tanks riding two-by-two to combat hostile fire. The new TC was standing in his hatch directing and Freddy was riding, without access to the intercom, behind him on the bustle rack. For whatever reason, the new TC failed to see the danger of an obstacle in the tank’s path and alert the driver. The gun tube struck a large tree stripping the turret’s gears and turning it around so the rear bustle rack was now over the right front fender. This sudden action caused Freddy to fall from his perch and into the right tank tread of the 54-ton tank.

I was in the platoon sergeant’s tank at the rear of the formation. Suddenly, the tanks stopped and the cry for “Medic” went out. I was confused because I had heard no incoming or outgoing fire. As I jumped off the tank and ran towards the other tank crews, I wondered why they needed me. When I reached the head of the column, I saw our assistant platoon sergeant, sitting on the ground crying and rocking Freddy McGee in his arms. It was as if everything was happening in slow motion. I approached and started a visual assessment from Freddy’s boots upward. Although I saw no wounds at first, he had suffered severe trauma to the left side of his face. I witnessed him slip away.

Even in the midst of danger, we were able to dispatch a small recon scout helicopter to retrieve Freddy’s body. Freddy left the Army and Vietnam that day. He was 22 years old.

Fast forward to 1993, when Freddy McGee’s parents attended a reunion meeting of the 69th Armor Association and obtained my contact information. They wrote me a lengthy letter telling me that the Army had made Freddy’s funeral a closed casket event and that they had no information about his death besides the date of Jan. 22, 1969. I wrote them back with every detail of what had occurred. I did not hear back after sending them the letter in 1993.  I believed that perhaps I should not have written such details. However, on March 7, 2017, I received the call and an email from Freddy’s brother, Jesse McGee.

The timeline for healing isn’t set in stone. It’s an individual journey for each person and family impacted by the loss of a loved one. For me, healing was in phases and peppered by those who crossed my path. For the family of Freddy, our correspondence helped heal. With Jesse’s permission, I am sharing part of the email that he sent to me with his side of the story.

I was a fat kid in school and not very popular until my big brother Freddy came home to Kittery on leave and visited my class in his Army uniform. I was so proud of him. He changed my world. My whole class wrote him letters. I have them all now. They were neatly and lovingly packed in his returned belongings. I dust them off every so often and am still so proud. 

Soon after January 22nd 1969 I was a small boy 10 years old and after getting off of my school bus all of the grownups I knew were at my house. When I walked in everyone was sad. My Dad took me by the hand and walked me to my bedroom and told me to sit on the bed. He was crying and that alone had me terrified because I never saw that before. He said “Freddy’s been in an accident and won’t be coming home”.

…The Army convinced my Dad to keep the casket closed. I was in disbelief that Freddy was in it. I looked for him in every crowd and I watched every POW that ever got off a plane.  …The letter you wrote gave us the closure that we all so desperately needed. I keep that letter on my phone to share. Because of you I can tell people how Freddy gave his life looking after his brothers. You changed my world, Jim, and I am forever grateful my brother!

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Social media misconduct won’t be tolerated, Army leader says

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By C. Todd Lopez March 24, 2017

Harassment, bullying, hazing, stalking, discrimination, retaliation, and any type of misconduct that undermines dignity and respect -- including that done online on social media platforms -- will not be tolerated by the Army, said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans, director of Military Personnel Management, Army G-1, during a March 22, 2017 hearing on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — Army policy states that hazing, bullying and other behaviors that undermine the dignity and respect of Soldiers and Army civilians are strictly prohibited.

That policy doesn’t apply just to the way Soldiers conduct themselves in the real world, said Maj. Gen. Jason Evans. It also applies to how they conduct themselves online, such as in emails, online chats, instant messaging, blogs, social media sites and web or video conferencing.
Evans, who serves as director of Military Personnel Management within the Army G-1, was on Capitol Hill, Wednesday to discuss the Army’s policies on social media with the House Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on military personnel.

“Harassment, bullying, hazing, stalking, discrimination, retaliation, and any type of misconduct that undermines dignity and respect will not be tolerated,” Evans told lawmakers. “And those found in violation will be held accountable.”

Back in 2015, then chief of staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno attended a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention summit in Washington, D.C, where he learned that Soldiers were reporting sexual harassment via social media. Other Soldiers spoke about online retribution against Soldiers who had spoken up about sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The next month, Odierno convened a team to address the issue and find a way to respond to and prevent such behavior online.

That team outlined three lines of effort that include updating existing Army policies to reflect social media, updating training materials and infusing the training base with information and best practices, and sharing information regarding responsible online conduct.

The Army released an All Army Activities message in July 2015, and then re-issued it in February 2017. It required commanders to “reinforce a climate where current and future members of the Army team … understand that online misconduct is inconsistent with Army values, and where online incidents are prevented, reported, and addressed at the lowest possible level.”

Also in that ALARACT, the Army first introduced the “Think, Type, Post” mantra to help Soldiers practice appropriate and responsible conduct while online.

“Think about the communication you are about to send and who is going to review it. Type a communication that conforms with Army values, and post a communication that demonstrates dignity and respect for both self and others,” Evans said, explaining “Think, Type, Post” to lawmakers.

Evans told lawmakers that Soldiers now receive training on online conduct as part of equal opportunity and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training. That training is included as part of the coursework at all levels of professional military education, from initial entry training to pre-command courses.

“Thereafter, that training is required on an annual basis,” Evans said, responding to one lawmaker’s question about the frequency of such training.

To share information across the Army about responsible online conduct, Evans told lawmakers, the Army has developed a social media handbook that outlines proper online behaviors and responsibilities and includes a “best practices” section on protecting oneself and reporting online misconduct.

The Army has also developed methods to track and report online misconduct, Evans said, similar to the way it tracks misconduct related to equal opportunity, equal employment opportunity, SHARP, inspector general investigations, UCMJ dispositions, and law enforcement investigations.

Evans also told lawmakers about the Army’s “Not in my squad” effort, which he said was designed to help Soldiers assess the state of mutual trust and cohesion within their squads.

The ‘Not in my Squad’ campaign, he said, “facilitates leader involvement and accountability, and aids in the creation of a professional and ethical culture among members of the Army team.”

Evans also assured lawmakers that the Army is aware of the dangers of social media, and their capacity to serve as a forum for the kind of inappropriate behavior that is already known by most Soldiers to be unacceptable in person.

“The Army recognizes the potential dangers concerning social media, and is proactively working to ensure Soldiers are aware of the standards of conduct and policies, training and programs,” he said.

“We will continue to enforce standards and imbue Soldiers and Army civilians with Army values, and emphasize professional behavior in all that we do.”

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VA now providing online daily burial schedules for its national cemeteries

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VA announced today a new online schedule for all VA national cemeteries that will allow families, friends and community members to find time and location information for those being interred.

“We pride ourselves on continuously improving customer satisfaction and meeting the wishes of Veterans and their loved ones,” said interim Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Ronald E. Walters. “We want manageable information for anyone wishing to pay their respects.”

The new online feature is available to anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer. Schedules of interments are updated hourly at, though some scheduled services may not be included as families may opt out of posting the information publicly.

Searches can be conducted by location or last name. The daily burial schedule provides date and time of the committal service, the location of the cemetery, as well as the funeral home providing services. The schedule also provides a direct link to the national cemetery’s web page, directions, location of committal shelters and additional information.

VA operates 135 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico. More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve and maintain 105 Veterans cemeteries in 47 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam, and Saipan. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service. In 2016, VA honored more than 345,000 Veterans and their loved ones with memorial benefits in national, state, tribal and private cemeteries.



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‘Third arm’ may lessen Soldier’s burden, increase lethality

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By Sean KimmonsMarch 24, 2017

The Army Research Laboratory is developing a "third arm" passive mechanical appendage that could lessen Soldier burden and increase lethality. Weighing less than 4 pounds, the device attaches to a Soldier's protective vest and holds their weapon, putting less weight on their arms and freeing up their hands to do other tasks.

The Army Research Laboratory is developing a “third arm” passive mechanical appendage that could lessen Soldier burden and increase lethality. Weighing less than 4 pounds, the device attaches to a Soldier’s protective vest and holds their weapon, putting less weight on their arms and freeing up their hands to do other tasks.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Army News Service) — Future ground troops may one day have a “third arm” device attached to their protective vests that will hold their weapon, lessening the weight on their arms and freeing up their hands for other tasks.

Weighing less than 4 pounds, the body-worn weapon mount is currently undergoing testing at the Army Research Laboratory, where researchers hope the lightweight device will ensure Soldiers pack a more powerful punch in combat.


“We’re looking at a new way for the Soldier to interface with the weapon,” said Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the lab’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate. “It is not a product; it is simply a way to study how far we can push the ballistic performance of future weapons without increasing Soldier burden.”

Today, some Soldiers are weighed down by combat loads that exceed 110 pounds. Those heavy loads, he said, may worsen as high energy weapons are developed for future warfare, which could be larger with heavier ammunition.

“You wind up pushing that Soldier’s combat load up beyond 120 pounds and they’re already overburdened,” he said last week at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium. “We [now] have Soldiers in their late teens and early 20s and they’re getting broken sometimes in training before they see a day in combat.”

The goal of the third arm device is to redirect all of a weapon’s weight to the body, making it easier for the Soldier to carry a more lethal firearm.

“With this configuration right now, we can go up to 20 pounds and take all of that weight off of the arms,” said Dan Baechle, also a mechanical engineer.

The passive mechanical appendage, which is made out of carbon fiber composite, can be used in the prone position and on both sides of the body.

To test the device, researchers are conducting a pilot with a few Soldiers using an M4 carbine on a firing range at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. As part of the pilot, Baechle said, the Soldiers wear electromyography sensors on their arms and upper body to measure muscle activity to determine if there’s a change in fatigue when shooting with the device.

Researchers also score the Soldiers’ shots to see if there’s an improvement in marksmanship.

“The research and development we’re focused on now is refining this device,” Baechle said, adding that they’re also working on it with the lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate.

Further research will look at answering questions by the Soldiers, such as if the device will get in the way if they wear a medical kit on the side or a magazine pouch in the front. “Those are all future use issues that we’re going to address in future iterations,” he said.

While the M4 is the only weapon currently being tested with the device, Baechle said, they plan to investigate other types of weapons with different calibers, like an M249 squad automatic weapon or M240B machine gun.

“Imagine shoulder-firing either of these without the weight on your arms, and without all the recoil going into your shoulder,” he said.

The third arm could also allow Soldiers to use future weapons with more recoil.

“We could potentially look at very high recoil systems that aren’t going to beat up on the Soldier like they normally would,” he said.

Researchers also plan to examine the device’s potential applications for various fighting techniques, like shoot-on-the-move, close-quarters combat, or even shooting around corners with augmented reality displays, he said.

Other possible applications for the device include helping a Soldier keep his weapon close by as he cuts through a barrier with a power saw during a breaching operation. A Soldier might also use it to carry a shield as he leads other Soldiers in clearing a room.

Before any field testing takes place, Baechle said, they hope to “ruggedize” the device to ensure it can withstand rigorous activity, such as having a Soldier fall to the ground with it.

“Right now we’re just doing proof of concept, so we’re not diving into the dirt with our only prototype,” he said. “But that’s something we would want to make sure we can do, because Soldiers will be doing that.”

(Follow Sean Kimmons on Twitter: @KimmonsARNEWS)

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Energy boost in a can: is it as beneficial as it seems?

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Energy boost in a can: is it as beneficial as it seems?

Consumers who rely on energy drinks for a boost should understand how to dose caffeine because nutrition labels can be misleading, experts say (Photo by Sgt. David Bruce/Camp Atterbury Public Affairs).Experts say consumers who rely on energy drinks for a boost should understand how to dose caffeine because nutrition labels can be misleading. (U.S. Marine Corps graphic)

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NutritionGrabbing an energy drink or two may seem like a good idea when you’re looking for a lift to get you through the day. After all, these drinks are marketed to provide mental and physical stimulation. The energy boost can help temporarily, but Military Health System experts want you to know there’s more to energy drinks than meets the eye.

Patricia Deuster, Ph.D., director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, said energy drinks can be beneficial when consumed properly, but people should understand how to dose caffeine.


“The amount of caffeine varies [between brands],” said Deuster, adding that information on the nutrition labels of energy drinks can be misleading. Other ingredients in energy drinks, such as guarana (Brazilian cocoa), can also contain caffeine, making the true caffeine content higher than the amount listed on the nutrition label.

Some people see performance benefits from caffeine, while others can be hypersensitive to it and have adverse reactions with even small amounts.

“People don’t realize that drinking a couple of energy drinks in a fairly short amount of time, like in one hour, can potentially harm them,” said Deuster. Drinking such high doses of caffeine and sugar in a short amount of time could overstimulate a person’s central nervous system, causing short-term effects like nervousness, shakiness, rapid heart rate, irritability, or sleep issues, said Deuster. More serious side effects include heart palpitations and an increase in blood pressure. Long-term effects of energy drinks are not yet known. Depending on a person’s caffeine tolerance, combining an energy drink with other caffeinated products like soda, tea, and dietary supplements – including pre-workout and weight loss supplements – can also overstimulate the central nervous system.

Maj. Sean Spanbauer, a performance dietitian for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, recommends limiting energy drink consumption to one or two per day, and no more than one in a four-hour period.

“A general rule of thumb is not consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day,” said Spanbauer, or 200 milligrams every three to four hours. According to OPSS, the most popular energy drinks contains about 80-120 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounce serving, and some contain more than one serving in a can.

“In a deployed environment,” Spanbauer added, “if somebody is sleep deprived and mission critical, there are benefits to caffeine, so I would start with 200 milligrams but do not exceed 600 milligrams in one day.”

A 2010 study by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found that almost 45 percent of deployed service members drank at least one energy drink per day, and nearly 14 percent drank three or more a day. The long-term effects of consuming energy drinks regularly aren’t known, but in the short term, sleep quality can be impacted. Long-term sleep issues can negatively affect health and disease risks.

“If you consume caffeine habitually, the cognitive boost or physical performance benefit becomes less effective just because your body gets used to it,” said Spanbauer.

Coffee and caffeine gum can provide a quick energy boost for those who aren’t keen on energy drinks. However, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet are essential for maintaining good health and energy in the long run.

“It’s very important to talk about this because it’s a safety issue that affects our service members and their families, their ability to stay healthy and perform the mission, and potentially their long-term health,” said Spanbauer.

To learn more about supplements in dietary drinks, visit the Operation Supplement Safety website, a DoD dietary supplement resource for the military community, leaders, health care providers, and DoD civilians.

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Funding Research for Better Water Purification

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Access to clean, uncontaminated water is of paramount importance to Air Force warfighters conducting critical operations. In many remote or rural areas of the world, access to this resource is limited or nonexistent.

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program office is providing nearly $750,000 to further mature a portable micro-discharge ozone generator, capable of purifying and decontaminating water for warfighters in the Air Force’s Air Combat Command and the Army’s Special Forces Command.

Kristin Galbally-Kinney, Steve Davis, and Terry Rawlins, of Physical Sciences Inc., adjust the excitation source for an argon microplasma laser. (Contributed photo)

Kristin Galbally-Kinney, Steve Davis, and Terry Rawlins, of Physical Sciences Inc., adjust the excitation source for an argon microplasma laser. (Contributed photo)



The generator, developed jointly by Physical Sciences Inc. in Andover, Massachusetts, and Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, is expected to offer maintenance and system voltage improvements over conventional ozone generators.

“Maturation of this technology is expected to result in portable water purification systems for remote air fields, as well as portable biological and chemical agent decontamination devices,” said Dr. Steve Adams, the Air Force Research Laboratory researcher managing the project.


An associated rare-gas microplasma laser effort will scale the power up to demonstrate the potential for meeting weapons-grade power objectives.

“We’ll also apply the technology concepts to an effort that replaces corrosive gas lasers with innovative inert gas lasers. The ability to replace those lasers will greatly reduce laser operational maintenance requirements and the logistics associated with those systems,” Adams said.

In addition to the STTR funding, this program leverages more than $300,000 in funds from the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office. As the technology matures, the investigators plan to seek additional funds from other Department of Defense agencies for scaling devices to field applications. These funds will help to ensure the Phase II project graduates into a Phase III program that successfully transitions its technologies into military or private sectors.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs are mission-oriented programs that integrate the needs and requirements of the Air Force through research and development topics that have military and commercial potential. The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982 to fund research and development (R&D) through small businesses of 500 or fewer employees.

The STTR program was established in 1992 to fund cooperative R&D projects with small businesses and non-profit U.S. research institutions, such as universities.

Since 2006, the Commercialization Readiness Program has directly linked Air Force centers to Air Force Research Laboratory technical points of contact to identify and evaluate Air Force needs and innovative solutions. Its primary objective is to accelerate the transition of SBIR/STTR-developed technologies into real-world military and commercial applications.

The Air Force SBIR and STTR programs provide more than $300 million in funding for research and development activities by small businesses annually. With this budget, the Air Force funds research from the early stages of concept development until it transitions to military or commercial use.

By Timothy Anderl, Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Office
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Meet the Scientists: Dr. Burton Neuner III

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Meet the Scientists is an Armed with Science segment highlighting the men and women working in the government realms of science, technology, research and development.  The greatest minds working on the greatest developments of our time.  If you have someone you’d like AWS to highlight for this segment, email Jessica L. Tozer at

Dr. Burtyn Neuner III with his Technicolor laser light machine. (Photo provided by SSC Pacific/Released)

Dr. Burtyn Neuner III with his amazing Technicolor optical communication machine. (Photo provided by SSC Pacific/Released)

WHO: Dr. Burton Neuner III. He earned a degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin studying the control of free-space infrared radiation using metamaterials and plasmonics.

TITLE: Physicist at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific. At SSC Pacific, he works in the Advanced Photonic Technologies Branch developing optical methods to better communicate between warfighters and Naval platforms.

MISSION: His research seeks to develop a system that automatically selects the ideal laser wavelength for OCOMMS undersea. Burton performs research on advanced optical components for free-space communication and identification, and contributes to projects developing laser-based photonic integrated circuits for improved RF analysis.


Tell me a little about yourself and your position, please.

“Well, ever since I could speak, I continually asked the ‘why’ questions.  My parents answered these questions to the best of their abilities, but at some point they didn’t have the answers.  Having careers outside of science and technology, they had to look them up, or simply say ‘we don’t know,’ which, in and of itself, is a great lesson. But when I was twelve years old, my interests became more narrowly focused on Einstein, relativity, black holes, and astronomy.  It was at this point I proclaimed that someday I’d be a physicist.  After eleven years of university education, I achieved my goal, defending my doctoral dissertation, and joining SSC Pacific as a Physicist/Scientist.”

What is your role in SSC Pacific’s Advanced Photonic Technologies Branch?

“A rather complicated question, I must admit. At the DoD’s Warfare Centers, Science and Technology professionals are uniquely positioned to serve in many roles.  We perform more applied research than you’ll find in academia, yet it’s often more basic and riskier than you’ll see in industry.  We can serve as the bridge between the two.  Furthermore, as subject matter experts, we serve as reviewers and monitors for the countless government procurement and research contracts, ensuring top-notch results for the warfighter.”

What is the goal/mission of free-space optical research and what do you hope it will achieve?

Free-space optical communications – or OCOMMS – provide dramatically higher bandwidths compared to all other wireless methods.  When wireless data rate is paramount, OCOMMS is the method of choice. The additional limitations presented by the undersea environment—most notably the lack of high-frequency radio wave propagation—reduce our choices further.  If, for example, an airborne or afloat platform requires communication with a submarine at speed and depth, OCOMMS is the only covert and high-bandwidth method available.  OCOMMS can provide to the warfighter the information needed to make the right decisions.”

In your own words, what is it about what you do that makes it so significant?

“The concept of OCOMMS for the undersea domain has been around for more than 30 years, but its high cost and Navy-specific need prevented its viability.  Today, system components are much more affordable, and other industries – oil and gas, for example – see the need for undersea OCOMMS, too.  Now is a great time to make a leap forward.”

How could you use your work to aid the military or help with military missions?

“Of all the contested regions, the undersea domain is perhaps one of the fastest growing.  If our OCOMMS innovations can lead to keeping our warfighters safer by improving their communication and situational awareness, then we’ve succeeded.”

What do you think is the most impressive/beneficial thing about your innovative, technological, laser-based work and why?

“Now, I can’t take credit for it, but OCOMMS laser systems that 30 years ago took up the size of a car and weighed nearly as much now are ten-fold smaller and lighter.  Lower size, weight, power, and cost make this technology more deployable.”

What got you interested in this field of study?

“After leaving academia, it was refreshing to be presented with a clear problem that needed attention.  I have extensive optics experience, but learned that free-space OCOMMS has a relative lack of manpower in the Navy.  It was a perfect fit.”

Are you working on any other projects right now?

“I’m also supporting a program that is developing the wireless transmission of power and communications. What makes this work interesting is that it’s a collaboration between three Navy Warfare Centers.  We are each bringing our own specialties to the table for this unique, collaborative effort.”

If you could go anywhere in time and space, where would you go and why?

“I’d love to (temporarily) visit the distant future—say, 3015—and observe the ways life is both better and worse.  One thousand years is a fraction of our recorded history, so it’s a timespan that I can wrap my mind around. But it’s far enough away that extraordinary social, technological, and geopolitical will changes will have occurred.  Even if I wasn’t able to implement constructive change back here in 2015, I’d take the opportunity to give thanks for the benefits of this time.”

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

“I do have one more thought.  I know I’m just one small part of a larger effort, like the NASA janitor who once famously answered President Kennedy’s question of, ‘What do you do here?’ with ‘I’m helping to put a man on the moon.’ We may not always realize it, but we all have an important role to play.”

Thanks to Dr. Burton Neuner III  for contributing to this article, and for his contributions to the science and technological communities.


Silicon-on-Sapphire Waveguides for Widely Tunable Coherent Mid-IR Sources 

Jessica L. Tozer
 is the editor-in-chief for Armed with Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for science and technology in the military.

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